Archive for February, 2010

Sabah relocates elephant away from people

Posted on February 27, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-the Malaysian Insider-

A young male Bornean elephant was recently relocated from the Sabah east coast to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Centre to prevent conflicts with human population that has encroached on the habitat of Sabah’s remaining 1,500 elephants, the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) said.

The SWD said although Sabah retains about 49 per cent of its permanent forest cover and is the second biggest state in Malaysia, a lack of habitat for its unique wildlife is leading to more human elephant conflicts.

“Sabah is blessed with wonderful wildlife from orang-utans, rhinos, elephants, sun bears, clouded leopards that are unique to this State but we have a forest that is broken up by agriculture without corridors linking them and this leads to conflict,” said SWD director Laurentius Ambu in a statement today.

In the latest case handled by the Department a young male elephant had to be removed from the East Coast and sent to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park for its own safety.

Sandakan wildlife officer Roland O. Niun said the elephant entered the plantation next to the Tangkulap Forest Reserve last December searching for food close to the dwellings of plantation workers.

“He was looking for plants like banana trees, yams and coconuts but in the process he damaged the water tank and fencing. Naturally, the plantation workers did their best to keep him away but this can lead to a dangerous situation for both the elephant and the people,” said Roland.

A baby elephant and its mother in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. Their home is highly fragmented leading to conflict with humans. – Picture by HUTAN/Dzulirwan @ Jolirwan bin Takasi

The decision was then made to capture him for translocation to another area, however once he was captured the SWD was able to identify him as an elephant that was previously translocated for causing similar conflict the month before.

“When we realised he was the same elephant we had captured December, 10th 2009 along Kilometre 18 of the Beluran Road and translocated to Tangkulap we knew that moving him somewhere else would led to the same conflict,” explained Roland.

Roland also stressed that such behaviour was not common among Sabah’s gentle elephants but seem to be increasing over the last three to five years due to development of the natural habitat without providing for forest corridors. A decision was then made to move him to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park for humane reasons as the alternative would be to put him to sleep.

“This issue is not new and will only become more and more common unless we address the underlying problem which is being faced by all of Sabah’s wildlife which is the lack of connectivity between their different habitat range.  People also need to understand that unless this is settled and private companies make real efforts to reforest corridors we will reach the stage of having to put down these gentle creatures,” Laurentius added.

Unfortunately, the SWD expects that human elephant conflict will continue to increase with the next five to ten years.

“Even if serious efforts are made for forest corridors we will still have to manage human elephant conflict in the interim. In fact, there is an urgent need for a Rapid Response Rescue and translocation team to be set up to deal with his issue which is why we are currently working with the private sector to establish such a team,” he said.

The setting up of such a team is extremely costly as rescuing and translocating a single elephant can cost up to RM100,000 or more.

The Bornean Elephant is a distinct sub-species from the Asian Elephant and is only found in Sabah, although some individuals roam in Northern Kalimantan (Indonesia). This makes Sabah the sole custodian of this unique sub-species of elephant.

In Sabah they are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment of 1997. The unlawful killing of an elephant carries a fine of RM50,000 or a jail term of five years or both under Section 25 (3) (b) under the Enactment. However, it also provides that the SWD is allowed to put down individuals as it sees fit to control the population.

“Today, we estimate that they are fewer than 1,500 individuals left in Sabah and we take their protection and survival very seriously,” according to Laurentius.

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CR in Malaysia commendable

Posted on February 27, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Economics |

-The Star-

PETALING JAYA: The consensus of various organisations, including regulators, environmental experts and companies (local and foreign) indicates that Malaysia’s level of corporate responsibility (CR) benchmarked against most other Asian countries (excluding Japan, South Korea, Singapore and China) is commendable and on a strong growth path.

A lot of the credit for this goes to the Government for playing its part to moot this global cause among local companies, especially those listed on Bursa Malaysia, when the authorities made it mandatory for listed entities to include a report on their CR initiatives in their annual financial reports after Dec 31, 2007.

Many other initiatives by various independent organisations as well as private companies have since furthered the CR cause to include environmental sustainability and other concerns.

These concerns include education, community welfare and development of sustainable resources, especially raw materials and human resources.

Other CR-related initiatives address issues like pollution control and reduction, and various other sophisticated mechanisms such as carbon tax credit have been developed to hold corporations responsible and accountable for carbon emissions arising from their business operations.

Obviously, many of the more sophisticated CR initiatives and programmes are from by the developed world and rightly so as it has been the main culprit for much of the degradation of the environment, especially in terms of carbon emission and global warming.

It is well documented that about 70% of the global carbon emission is contributed by the developed world, especially the United States, which consumes the bulk of the products manufactured in the world.

CR in Malaysia

According to Bursa Malaysia Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Yusli Mohamed Yusoff, CR is a critical element that enhances business sustainability.

He said the stock exchange operator introduced a CR framework which captured four key growth pillars: the workplace, marketplace, environment and community.

He said the framework was aimed at guiding companies on the different aspects of CR implementation throughout the organisations, adding that the CR agenda was not alien to Malaysian listed companies.

“This agenda is well-championed in Malaysia with the Government leading the cause by making it mandatory for companies to disclose in their annual reports the CR activities undertaken within the year,” Yusli noted.

He said the Government had demonstrated its commitment to push the CR agenda with its recent budget announcement and the need to integrate aspects of CR as part of business sustainability.

“Having said that, we still have a long way to go in internalising CR and implementing initiatives that demonstrate commitment to this practice.

“There is a perception that it requires a lot of time, effort, resources and money to engage in CR-related activities. Often, CR is construed as an activity that involves cost when in actual fact, it can also lead to cost savings,” Yusli said.

He said that one of Bursa Malaysia’s principal responsibilities was to build investor confidence in the stock exchange as investors worldwide looked beyond financial returns and wanted to know how a company interacted with the society and environment in which it operated.

On the investment front, Yusli said there was now a fast-growing trend for traditional mainstream investors to incorporate non-financial environmental and social measures such as climate change management, and employee and community involvement into risk management as well as stock valuation analysis.

“Investment analysts are doing this to ensure that they factor all potential liabilities in their valuation assessments. It is important that Malaysian listed companies focus on this and begin making CR a part of their everyday functions and business strategies,” he said.

Securities Commission chairman Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar said it was heartening to see smaller companies making good headway in CR.

“I hope to see companies investing more resources to improve and sustain these efforts,” she said.

Business Council for Sustainable Development Malaysia president Datuk Kok Wee Kiat said the most difficult hurdle was to change the mindset of Malaysian companies on CR.

“A great majority of corporate leaders do not think of CR as a positive means of generating profits. Instead, it is looked at as a gesture, and perhaps a nuisance, to please the authorities committed to an international agenda.

“Malaysian companies by and large still view CR initiatives more of a liability than an asset,” he said.

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Going Green, For Real

Posted on February 26, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Economics |

(Bernama) — Of late, going green seems to be more of a fad than a crucial effort in finding solutions for environmental issues.

The corporate world embarks on what they call “green initiatives” but one sometime wonders if this effort is more than just a tax-exemption exercise.

Enter Ruth Yeoh, the eldest daughter of the managing director of YTL Group Tan Sri Francis Yeoh.

For those unaware, the group is one of Malaysia’s biggest infrastructure conglomerates with businesses across the globe. Ruth is the Director of Investments and the one who leads the environmental division at YTL.

Ruth looks at environmental issues with an open mind and objectively. Her attitude is quite typical of someone in a senior position at a world-renowned conglomerate. She dismisses labels like “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) and says environmental issues like climate change is something that needs to be taken seriously, on both the corporate and personal level.

“My corporate mission here is to help the company go clean and green. My job is to ‘clean up’ all of our businesses.

“This is beyond CSR. It’s corporate governance as well, because we not only give out annual report to stakeholders but it is online so people can review the reports at anytime and write to me if they have any concern or questions,” Ruth said in an exclusive with Bernama.

PERSONAL MISSION

Having a background in architecture with a focus on organic and sustainable design has undeniably helped Ruth in adopting measures for sustainability of the planet through the work she does.

“I like what I do so much and I also make it my personal mission. I am a believer that every individual counts. You can be your very own agent of change,” said Ruth, who is also a Director at YTL-SV Carbon, YTL’s in-house carbon credit and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) consultancy.

Elaborating the power of individual will, Ruth related her experience going into the remote villages of Yunan in China to help with conservation and sustainability efforts.

“China is balancing conservation and development. I can say this personally because I have visited remote villages in Yunan, where they don’t even have electricity and basic necessities.

“So the dilemma in talking to them about climate change is a context that doesn’t muddle them,” she said.

She helped them with a pilot green project, where in her individual capacity she donated USD2,000 to help them build houses that lasts without sacrificing many trees.

“Did you know Tibetan villages cut down a lot of trees just to build a single home that is dark, not insulated and has to be rebuilt again after two years because of the contraction and expansion of the wood?

“That is not sustainable, so we try to use more environmentally-friendly material, bring that to them on a template with plans and scale drawings and suggest to them to build it that way.”

She said the plan was to cut down deforestation rate by 20 per cent, something achievable if the right message gets across.

Through the environmental division at YTL, she reports on the organisation’s environmental activities through writing Sustainability Reports, published yearly. She also pioneered YTL’s annual effort called “Climate Change Week” which she regards as “a gift to the public”.

“For the Climate Change Week, we have free screenings of eco-documentaries and movies, we hold talks, seminars, meetings and conferences. We also have youth workshops so the younger generation can participate and have their voices heard,” she said.

She explained that her division also organises Earth Hour activities and the response have been so good that participants wanted the event to be held again.

“When you demand for a campaign of this sort, I’m sure that a lot of positive developments will follow,” she said.

GLOBAL ISSUE, BUT INDIVIDUAL EFFORT COUNTS

When asked why world leaders had difficulty reaching a consensus at the Copenhagen Climate Summit late last year, she opined:

“The problem with climate change is that it is a global problem that requires global action, that it takes time to come up with an overall precise solution.

“Not only do we have to worry about developed countries but the developing countries too,” she said.

Yeoh said the last thing that countries like China, that is growing at an exponential rate, needs is a climate change policy than could hamper its development goals.

“That is the dilemma at the moment. But having said that, I’m actually quite positive because US President Barack Obama, the Chinese president and our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak attended the summit, and that demonstrates participation on policy-making level,” she said.

However, she pointed out that addressing climate change is not solely the responsibility of governments and corporate entities and one should never forget that the individual effort to counts.

“But it has to be collective individual will. We’ve got to be in this together.”

OTHER CONSERVATION EFFORTS

Although it seems that Ruth is neck deep in environmental work, she somehow still finds time to do more.

In 2007, she co-edited the book “Cut Carbon, Grow Profits: Business Strategies for Managing Climate Change and Sustainability” with Kenny Tang who is the head of the Environmental Advisory board for the IPWG, a renewable energy and waste-to-energy group.

The book illustrates what every corporation needs to know in order to manage the carbon and sustainability challenges facing society, cities, individuals and businesses today.

She is also a board member at Reef Check Malaysia, dedicated to protecting reefs and coral life in Malaysia and the Southeast Asian region.

Founded in 1996, Reef Check is the world’s largest international coral reef monitoring organisation.

The non-profit organisation recruits volunteer marine scientists and divers to survey the reefs and collect data to help assess reef health. Reef Check is now active in over 82 countries and territories.

Last month, Ruth added another feather to her cap when she was selected as one of Asia Society’s Asia 21 Fellow.

A total of 21 next generation leaders from 16 countries in the Asia Pacific region has been granted the fellowship, which is a preeminent leadership development programme in the Asia-Pacific region for emerging leaders under the age of 40.

Representing a broad range of sectors, the Fellows will come together three times during their Fellowship year in different cities in the Asia-Pacific region to address topics relating to environmental degradation, economic development, poverty eradication, universal education, conflict resolution, HIV/AIDS and public health crises, human rights, and other issues.

Her active participation in environmental conservation efforts demonstrates her tenacity in walking the talk, as an individual and a corporate citizen.

One wonders what keeps her green drive going, but Ruth sums it up succinctly:

“I’m only doing my part to protect our earth and the environment. You can do the same. It’s the least we can do for ourselves, and the future generations.”

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Sabah villagers expose ‘bogus’ EIA on RM 2.8b dam

Posted on February 25, 2010. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-malaysiakini.com-

Normally welcoming villagers in the controversial Kaiduan Dam area turned hostile when nine visitors turned out to be not what they claimed to be. The nine, including two women, had claimed to be working on the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for the proposed RM 2.8 billion dam.

Anti-Kaiduan Dam Action Committee chair Nousi Giun complained that the visitors did not produce any approval letter from the Environmental Protection Department (EPD). This is a requirement before an EIA is carried out within any community.

“They did not seek permission either from the two Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) chairmen in the five villages in this area,” said Nousi who identified the villages as Babagon Laut and Terian under one JKKK.

visitors shy away from ranau kundasang sabah 230609 05The other three villages the nine outsiders visited over the weekend in the remote Crocker Range area in Penampang, are Buayan, Tiku and Timpayasa. Penampang is on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu. The visitors had to trek on foot to each of the five villages.

Terian, an exception, has a dirt track but only during the current dry season.

The nine, according to Nousi, claimed to be from a local company Ensolve Sdn Bhd, the Land and Survey Department (LSD) and the EPD. The two men, introduced as LSD staff in one village, reportedly claimed in another village to be bodyguards for the other seven visitors. This news quickly went around, added Nousi.

He added that suspicions were further aroused when it was discovered that the visitors would write down ‘no comment’ in their ‘survey forms’ whenever the villagers disagreed with the questions they were asked.

“Perhaps the nine were under the impression that the villagers could not read or did not know English,” said Nousi. “The villagers saw what the visitors wrote down in their forms.”

Official complaints

Nousi confirmed that his committee had filed official complaints with the Penampang District Office, the LSD, the EPD and the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry over the visit by the nine outsiders.

“It was not conducted according to the Handbook of Environmental Impact Assessment which clearly spells out the proper procedures.”

Nousi’s committee also discovered the nine visitors failed to take ‘scoping notes’ which identify issues that would affect the residents if the dam project was to proceed.

The notes, are to provide early information about the concept of the entire project and whether it’s sensitive to the environment. Through it, the EPD can also assess whether the consultant tasked with the survey is qualified to carry it out.

“We can confirm that Ensolve Sdn Bhd has provided us with the scoping notes for Kaiduan,” said EPD Director Yapi Yangkat. “However, we are not aware who appointed the firm to carry out the survey. None of our staff accompanied them during their purported survey works in Kaiduan.”

The EPD Director expressed the hope that the consultant did not claim that EPD and LSD staff were among the nine people who visited the five villages recently.

Scoping notes

Yapi said his department would not process the scoping notes and the technical study, the first stage in an EIA, until the state government gives the green light. Once they are approved, the next stage will be the terms of reference for the EIA followed by the EIA itself. There might even be a detailed EIA, the fourth stage.

Ensolve managing director Loh Su Mui was quoted in the local media as saying that she has yet to submit the technical study on Kaiduan to the EPD. “We are not in a position to release the information,” she was quoted as saying before declining further comment. “The media can check the technical report with the EPD.”

Penampang District Officer William Sampil was not immediately available for comment. The local DAP (Democratic Action Party) has begun a campaign seeking his ouster on the grounds of him being ‘a shoddy performer’. It is not known whether the Kaiduan Dam project is one of the grouses against Sampil.

State Assistant Finance Minister Donald Mojuntin was blunt on the recent developments in the Kaiduan Dam area. “It seems like the project is being forced down the people’s throat,” he said. “The consultant must answer the allegations by the villagers.’

No consultant

Mojuntin, who is also the Moyog state assemblyperson, added that as far as he was concerned “no consultant has been appointed by the EPD to carry out any study in the Kaiduan Dam project area.

“So they (Ensolve) have no business going to the affected villages at this point in time,” fumed Mojuntin. “Moreover, this matter (Kaiduan) is quite sensitive.”

According tdams hydroelectric dams 290609o consultant engineer Ong Boo Say of SMHB Sdn Bhd, listed as the project consultants for the Kaiduan Dam project, Terian is not among the villages affected by the development.

The other four villages affected are from an initial list of 15 villages. The dam was subsequently downsized and a related water plant scrapped.

The proposed dam is expected to flood an area of 12 sq km and submerge a large area of forested land that has been a traditional source of medicine, wild fruits, forest resources, wildlife and fishing spots for the local Dusun tribes.

The affected villagers want the proposed dam to be sited at Mandalipau, a tributary of Sungei Papar, where there are no human settlements. The state government however has rejected the alternative as being more expensive by RM140 million.

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‘Stop political fund-raising from logging’

Posted on February 25, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-malaysiakini.com-

Corruption watchdog Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) is urging the government to reduce the strong links between state financing and forest management.

This is to ensure the management of forests is done in a sustainable and acceptable manner, said TI-M president Paul Low during a Forest Governance Integrity (FGI) workshop in Kuala Lumpur today.

Low stressed that it was very likely that abuses will occur and the forest exploited if political parties rely on timber resources for funding.

He reminded the audience that corruption is “not just about bribery but the abuse of power entrusted by the people for financial and personal gain”.

He added that timber concessions should be open to the public and strict terms should be observed in the selection of companies.

Make a choice

In response to politicians having stakes in timber companies, Low remarked: “They have to make a choice of either being in the business of exploiting timber or in Parliament looking after the interest of the people”.

NONETI’s FGI programme manager Manoj Nadkarni (right) maintained that most countries do have good regulations, researchers and scientists but graft upsets it all.

“No matter how good the laws are, unless you fight corruption on a regional basis, this scourge will go on,” he said.

When asked what was the biggest criticism regarding our forest management, Low offered: “We do hear of abuses in East Malaysia of illegal logging and the exploitation of Orang Asli”.

However, he stressed that TI “does not want to be critical of anything but is coming alongside the federal and state government and stakeholders including environmentalists, so that we can work together to deal with the issues.”

He lamented the lack of citizens’ participation in forestry lawmaking and urged civil societies to be more proactive and be at the forefront of tackling graft.

When asked what the project has achieved so far, Manoj said that it has managed to develop a good stakeholder network and helped enforcers tighten laws.

Orang Asli matters

ti global corruption report 230909 paul lowOn another matter, Low (right) called on more Orang Asli to be placed in the Orang Asli Affairs Department and its subsidiaries after the indigeneous group staged a protest yesterday.

He said that decisions made by the department affect the Orang Asli’s livelihood but they are very often not in the position to defend themselves and influence decisions that affect them.

He added: “The department cannot operate in isolation. They need to engage stakeholders and be part of the decision-making process.”

He also hit out at the Rural and Regional Development Ministry for transfering a medical doctor to another state after she alleged mismanagement and abuse of power in an Orang Asli Hospital in Gombak.

“We should not penalise people who complain about mismanagement but should instead protect them. The ministry should see this as something positive, to be looked into and dealt with.

“This is not appropriate behaviour and should not be condoned,” he said.

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Malaysia’s Green Building Index For Tropical Structures

Posted on February 25, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-The CSR Digest-

In August 2008, PAM (Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia or Malaysian Institute of Architects) Council endorsed and approved the formation of the new Sustainability Committee, tasked primarily to develop and establish the Green Building Index Malaysia. A target deadline of April/May 2009 was set to launch this Green rating.

The Green Building Index (GBI) is Malaysia’s industry recognised green rating tool for buildings to promote sustainability in the built environment and raise awareness among Developers, Architects, Engineers, Planners, Designers, Contractors and the Public about environmental issues and our responsibility to the future generations.

In February 2009, Greenbuildingindex Sdn Bhd was incorporated, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PAM and the Association of Certified Engineers of (ACEM), to administrate GBI accreditation and training of GBI Facilitators and Certifiers.

The GBI rating tool provides an opportunity for developers and building owners to design and construct green, sustainable buildings that can provide energy savings, water savings, a healthier indoor environment, better connectivity to public transport and the adoption of recycling and greenery for their projects and reduce our impact on the environment.

GBI is developed specifically for the Malaysian-tropical climate, environmental and developmental context, cultural and social needs and is created to:

  • Define green buildings by establishing a common language and standard of measurement;
  • Promote integrated, whole-building designs that provides a better environment for all;
  • Recognise and reward environmental leadership;
  • Transform the built environment to reduce its negative environmental impact; and
  • Ensure new buildings remain relevant in the future and existing buildings are refurbished and upgraded to improve the overall quality of our building stock.

GBI accreditation for buildings is separated into three tiers. At the highest level is the GBI Accreditation Panel, the independent regulatory body for GBI accreditation. At the intermediate level are the GBI Certifiers, consisting of experienced professionals that conduct the assessment and accreditation of project submissions. On the front-end level are the GBI Facilitators, professionals who together with clients and design team to enhance their projects to meet or exceed GBI rating system requirements.

GBI is designed specifically for the tropical climate (hot and humid) and Malaysia’s current social, infrastructure and economic development. Singapore’s GREENMARK is the other green rating tool developed for the tropics but it addresses specifically the priorities and needs of Singapore.

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Peter Chin To Lead Malaysian Delegation To Munich Dialogue

Posted on February 25, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Economics |

(Bernama) — Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui will lead the Malaysian delegation to the Malaysia-Europe Forum (MEF) Spring Dialogue in Munich on March 2.

In a statement issued by the MEF KL Secretariat on Thursday, the minister said he was honoured to have been invited to lead the delegation as the theme and topics to be discussed were very pertinent to Malaysia and Germany.

“I am certain that we are aware of some of the non-sustainable nature of current business and industry practices. The question is, what can we do to improve our ways of doing business to incorporate more green practices?

“This is a question that is still being debated worldwide, but initiatives such as the Malaysia-Europe Forum will go a long way to provide an answer,” he said.

The one-day event themed “The Global Green Agenda: Securing a Sustainable Future” addresses issues pertaining to sustainable growth and the greening of business through three roundtable sessions featuring prominent speakers from the Malaysian business world.

Other speakers include Sime Darby Bhd Chairman Tun Musa Hitam, Construction Industry Development Board Chairman Tan Sri Ir Jamilus Hussein, Malaysian Industrial Development Authority Director-General Datuk Jalilah Baba and Advisor to the Executive Board of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil M.R. Chandran.

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Will turning vegetarian save the planet?

Posted on February 24, 2010. Filed under: International Watch |

-The Guardian-

Even committed carnivores can’t dodge the facts: we’re going to have to cut down on the red stuff. A bit.

Monbiot blog: Rainforest Clearcut for Oil Palm Plantation in  Sabah, MalaysiaAerial view of a clearcut rainforest which will become an oil palm plantation, Sabah, Malaysia. Photograph: Frans Lanting/Corbis

“If one cares about the environment, one must care about eating animals … Someone who regularly eats factory-farmed products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

The numbers look pretty unarguable. So much so that – as a senitive meat-eating, trying-hard green – I have to ask if Safran Foer is being too soft: can any meat-eater at all call themselves an environmentalist?

Livestock agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than every train, truck, car and aeroplane put together. The resources consumed by one average omnivore in pursuit of animal protein would nourish as many as 10 vegetarians (there’s lots of argument about this stat – some would put the ratio higher). So, shift people’s diets and the planet can support more people – in fact, it will quite easily deal with the 9.2 billion at which population is currently forecast to peak in about 40 years’ time, even with the threat to agriculture that climate change poses.

If the omnivores you convert are the usual guzzlers of cheap industrial meat that populate the rich world, all the better. Because production of their protein is particularly demanding on fossil fuels – for fertiliser, processing, transport and so on.

So, it’s better for the planet if you’re a vegetarian, right? You don’t have to be a vegan fundamentalist (before the climate change deniers start venting) to hold this view: Lord Stern, former chief economist at the World Bank and a pretty mainstream figure who now advises the British government on climate change, told the Times in October: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.” And what is Stern diet? “Not strict vegetarian,” apparently.

Therein are the makings of a defence for meat eating. Clearly vegetarians who eat soya, chickpeas, lentils, rice and other imported foods are not as green as a Fife dieter eating locally grown turnips, kale and oats. Ask a preachy vegetarian to audit their food sourcing and they may not come out much cleaner than what Safran Foer calls a “selective omnivore”.

It is argued that the average rich world vegetarian may not consume much less of the planet’s resources than the average moderate omnivore: a report last week for the Worldwide Fund for Nature (download pdf) on the impact of food production pointed out that highly processed vegetarian meat substitutes or foods made of imported soya (as in tofu) might actually use more arable land and resources than their beef or dairy equivalents. Deforestation in the developing world to grow cheap soya for human and animal feed is a major issue in climate change.

Fish-eating – which Safran Foer stated in Tuesday’s Guardian is as, if not more, cruel than meat eating – may not be a much greener option either. Already 50% of the fish and shellfish eaten globally is produced by aquaculture, much of it intensive and ecologically often dodgy – for instance in the tropical prawn industry. Farming carnivores like salmon is fairly disastrous ecologically, and involves a similar waste of food resources to meat – it takes 3-5kg of other fish to produce 1kg of salmon.

But as a committed carnivore I have to acknowledge that if I want my grandchildren ever to enjoy a perfect entrecôte steak I must address my habits now: all this nonchalant animal protein-munching cannot go on. Meat in the developed world needs to be seen as more of a luxury and less of a staple.

Food is responsible for 30% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions (according to the new WWF report) and a large proportion of that is from livestock farming. The average Briton eats 50g of animal protein a day: a chicken breast or a lamb chop. That’s much less than countries like the United States, but it is still 25-50% more than the average person needs for healthy nutrition. The main reason that world food production must rise by 50% in the next 50 years (the UN FAO‘s projection) is not the increase in population, but the increase in meat eating as poorer countries develop.

Which is why I am trying to embrace the ‘drop meat once a week’ notion. One day off the red stuff? Not so great a hardship, really. And if you eat local meat, sustainably produced, rather than Brazilian rainforest fed burgers, that will help. Also, I don’t want to see livestock farming disappear – it shaped the countryside we know.

Or you could simply have fewer children – the most planet-unfriendly thing you can possibly do is produce more animal-gobbling, methane-emitting, fossil fuel squanderers. The only other carnivore option is to eat the dog and then the goldfish. After that, it’s roadkill only.

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11 rainforest countries pledge sustainable forest management

Posted on February 23, 2010. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-Indo Asian News-

Eleven tropical rainforest countries Tuesday agreed to commit on sustainable forest management at a ministerial meeting held in Indonesia’s Bali province, Xinhua reported.

The tropical rainforests are home to diverse biological species and storehouses of genetic resources. They also serve as sources of livelihood and a repository of cultural heritage, the group, also known as F-11, said in a joint press statement.

Looking forward to 2010, the ministers emphasised that the forthcoming global climate talks must include the issue of forest as an integral component.

Indonesian Foreign Minster Marty Natalegawa told reporters that the meeting was very useful and productive as it gave opportunity for member countries to share their experience on forestry issues.

“We have discussed various topics related to forestry matters, including biodiversity, climate change and sustainable forest management,” said Marty.

Papua New Guinea Forestry Minister Belden Namah said all ministers in the meeting supported initiatives of forest management practices.

“We support initiatives taken by the F-11 in the area of sustainable forest management,” said Namah.

The forum also agreed admission of Guatemala, Suriname and Guyana to the association.

The F-11 consists of Indonesia, Brazil, Gabon, Costa Rica, Congo, Cameroon, Colombia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Peru and Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Roaring time in support of tigers

Posted on February 23, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-The Star- These tigers were actually people, both young and old, who had their faces painted in tiger stripes in support of the WWF TX2 Double or Nothing tiger conservation campaign.Leading the pack were Selangor Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong and WWF Malaysia executive director and CEO Datuk Dr Dionysus Sharma who were among the first ones to get their faces painted to mark the launch of the campaign.

It did not seem like the organisers would achieve their intended target of 1,000 people as only about 300 had signed up by 1pm.

For a good cause: More than 1,000 people attended the event.

However, the response was overwhelming after the face-painting restarted after a two-hour break at 3pm.

WWF Malaysia senior executive Subashni Bahsu said they had successfully painted 1,016 people by the time they closed at 6.30pm.

She said they were touched by the response showed by the people and felt they were successful in achieving their objectives.

“It will get into the Malaysia Book of Records as the biggest face-painting event,” she said.

Subashni added that 40 volunteers were stationed at 20 painting stations to carry out the task of painting the faces.

She said the individual photographs of the participants were also taken before they were asked to stick them up on a wall.

Sharma said he was confident that their target of doubling up the Malayan tiger population from 500 to 1,000 was a realistic goal.

He said getting the tigers to multiply was not a difficult task but they needed to protected from poachers and traffickers.

“The government has to do everything possible to protect them including conservation of the forest.

“They have to come down hard on the poachers and traffickers using the laws that are available,’’ he said, adding that the Malayan tigers were a unique species and could not be found anywhere else in the world.

Wong said the state government would be playing a role to support the WWF’s goal.

By taking the necessary measures, she said there was a possibility for tigers to live in the state’s forest.

“Records show that the last tiger was sighted in Selangor some 30 years ago but it does not mean that we do not have tigers in our forests,” she said.

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